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Renaissance Woman Kristen Thompson Adds MBA to Degree Total at YSU

Kristen Thompson isn’t left-brained or right-brained. Instead, she thoroughly uses both.

The Poland, Ohio, local graduated from the Master of Business Administration with a Specialization in Leadership online program at Youngstown State University (YSU) in December 2021.

Thompson now holds degrees in music performance, electrical and computing engineering and business from YSU. Plus, she will start law school at the University of Akron later this year.

“My end goal was always to go to law school and work as a patent attorney,” she said. “To work in patent or intellectual property law, you have to have a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] degree or background.”

Thompson is currently a data engineer for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio. Her team focuses on developing connected solutions to transform the future of mobility.

“Innovation plays a crucial role in the tire development process, and we wanted to find ways to incorporate new, technological advancements into our products. There were a lot of internal discussions on my team about creating this data-driven business model with intelligent tires,” she said. “Questions like, ‘How do we communicate the health of tires to our consumers for preventative maintenance? What types of insights can we infer from this data? How do we make mobility safer? How do we incorporate this real-time data with existing services to enhance the consumer experience?’

“A lot of those questions came down to this business understanding of how we take this information and strategize as a company. A key component of me wanting to go back for an MBA was to better understand those internal discussions and learn more about competitive advantages.”

The online format of YSU’s MBA program made it manageable for Thompson to continue her higher education and maintain a full-time job without missing a beat.

“It was definitely convenient and flexible,” she said. “I was on campus for my previous degrees, but this switched to an online format because of COVID-19. When I started the online MBA program, it was an easy transition.

“I could not imagine having to drive and commute while working. It helps a lot with the time management.”

Plugged In

Thompson displayed an early thirst for knowledge, as she developed keen interests in engineering and music as a kid. Her dad, David, was an electrical engineer.

“I had some background knowledge of circuit theory, but I was also interested in software engineering,” she said. “I knew from an earlier age that I wanted to focus my studies in this area.”

“When I started as an intern at Goodyear, I was exposed to other fields that were not offered at the university level. I was mentored by quite a few data scientists and data engineers that helped me pivot my career into data analytics. Big data is disrupting all industries with more businesses incorporating machine learning/artificial intelligence as a key component to making informed decisions. Yet, I feel that with all these recent develops in technology, our laws do not reflect these changes. ”

After graduating with an associate degree in music performance, Thompson earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical and computing engineering. She completed all three degrees within four and a half years.

“I was set on returning to YSU for the MBA,” she said. “I was happy with the education I received there. Plus, the fact that it was online made it especially convenient to work and go to school full time.”

The program’s Leadership course, taught by Dr. Rebecca Badawy, was Thompson’s favorite in the online MBA with a Specialization in Leadership program curriculum.

“She was a phenomenal professor, and I enjoyed her curriculum,” she said. “We had one assignment that required us to solicit anonymous feedback from our work colleagues to assess how we might be able to identify and improve on our leadership blind spots. That particular exercise was extremely valuable for self-reflection and personal growth.”

Grey Matter

Thompson, a first-generation college student, believes that the MBA is already benefitting her career in multiple ways. Her family is always supportive of her thirst for knowledge.

“I believe that this degree will open up other opportunities for me,” she said. “Even if you do not plan to go into management or consulting, it provides a good, high-level overview of how the organization works.”

Although Thompson has earned multiple college degrees in different disciplines, she said it’s important to know the goal when enrolling in any degree program.

“You should know what you hope to gain out of it and not continue education for the sake of continuing education,” she said. “What are your goals and aspirations, and how does this program align with what you are trying to accomplish?”

Thompson, who still plays music and volunteers at an animal shelter in her free time, is proud to be a Penguin. No matter where her career — and her brain — takes her, she knows that she has a solid educational foundation.

“The MBA program at Youngstown State helped me grow professionally, academically and personally. Students get great value out of this program considering how affordable it is compared to other universities. The MBA program was another great experience.”

Learn more about YSU’s MBA with a Specialization in Leadership online program.

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